A report by the Sentencing Advisory Council (SAC) that discourages the adoption of standard non-parole periods (SNPPs) has been welcomed by the legal profession.
In October last year, the Queensland Government announced its intention to introduce minimum SNPPs for serious and sexual offences in Queensland. In December 2010, the Government asked the SAC to examine the appropriate offences to which a minimum SNPP should apply and the appropriate length of the SNPP for each of the offences identified.
The SAC had to report back to the Attorney-General by 30 September 2011 and released its final report yesterday (11 October).
According to the SAC's final report, "There is limited evidence that SNPP schemes meet their objectives beyond making sentencing more punitive and the sentencing process more costly and time consuming". The SAC also noted the "possible negative impacts of such a scheme on vulnerable offenders".
Campaigning against the introduction of SNPPs, the Queensland Law Society said they reduce judicial discretion and the ability for people to receive a fair and just sentence that considers all the circumstances.
QLS chief executive officer Noela L'Estrange said the society sees no merit in SNPPs, "which are, in essence, a form or mandatory sentencing".
"I am pleased that the majority of the Sentencing Advisory Council does not support SNPPs and accepts evidence from other states that it increases costs to the justice system, makes sentencing more complex, reduces sentencing clarity, transparency and predictability, and yet, does not reduce the rate of serious crime or improve community safety," said L'Estrange, adding that crimes are committed by different types of people for different reasons, and that the judicial system was never designed as a one-size-fits-all structure.
Noting that the Government's own sentencing council has questioned plans to introduce SNPPs, criminal defence lawyer Cameron Browne said, "The council is to be applauded for rejecting this approach and expressing its view regardless - a majority view that categorically rejects any scheme of this sort".
Browne, a director of Potts Lawyers, said the mandatory sentencing question was fundamentally flawed from the beginning.
"The whole point of the sentencing advisory body was to have community input to sentencing options," said Browne. "But the council has come back and said there are serious problems with minimum non-parole periods. The state's response seems to be it will ignore the sentencing council concerns and impose this grossly inappropriate system anyway."